Alternate History

NBC's Tonight (Napoleon's World)

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NBC's Tonight is a Saturday evening political commentary program that has aired live from 7:00 to 8:00 every Saturday night on NBC since 1982, and has been aired on NBCable as well since 1999. The show was initially the successor program to The Ronald Reagan Show, which ran in the 5:00 PM Friday timeslot on NBC from 1958 to 1981, when the network decided to move the show to two hours later and try to revolutionize a "weekend primetime" slot. The gimmick was a moderate success, with the program, redubbed Tonight with Ronald Reagan following the switch, dominating the 7:00 PM Saturday slot, albeit due to uninspired competition.

Ronald Reagan hosted the show for seven years in this timeslot until his retirement at the age of 77 in 1988 after a fifty-year movie and television career and thirty years on NBC. His replacement was the telegenic young Dan Quayle, who began hosting Tonight with Dan Quayle the immediate week after Reagan's retirement. Quayle, however, lacked the paternal, grandfatherly charm of Reagan as well as the former's eloquence, and in 1996 was unexpectedly fired by NBC. During Quayle's tenure, then-unknown Garth Brooks broke the John Lipcourt scandal, news of which NBC had received only ten minutes prior to airtime in an oft-remembered moment. Despite attempts to convince Brooks to stay with the network, Brooks was offered a monstrous deal at CNN and NBC hired young correspondent Michael Jordan as its anchor, making Jordan the first black news anchor in history, a position Jordan has held ever since. In 1999, however, the show's name was changed from Tonight with Michael Jordan to simply Tonight, and in 2005 it was changed again to NBC's Tonight in a move that received mockery from late night talk show hosts and mainstream cable personalities.

After Reagan's retirement, the show changed from a "forum-style" program which facilitated debates and included direct, in-person interviews and changed into a weekly summary under Quayle, who had a single interview at the end of the program. Jordan encouraged the move back to the Reagan-style format of the show during the 1990's, but in recent years the program has evolved into standard punditry in order to compete with similar programs on its own cable affiliate, NBCable, and other cable news networks.

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